Bush big target at Democratic caucus | VailDaily.com

Bush big target at Democratic caucus

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily/Shane Macomber Michael Gallagher speaks at the Democratic caucuses Tuesday night at the Cordillera Valley Club Golf Course Club House in Edwards.

How many phone calls will local Democrats make to pack a caucus room?

As many as they need to.

Phone trees the size of California redwood brought dozens of local Democrats to Tuesday’s caucus meetings at the Cordillera Valley Club. To rally the troops, local Dems combined it with dinner, conversation and a healthy disdain for the country’s sitting president. They enjoyed the good fortune to have a television tuned in to President Bush’s press conference – just in case anyone forgot who they’re trying to beat.

No one actually heckled Bush, although the Cordillera Valley Club saw several new indoor records for eye rolling. One young mother patiently explained to her inquisitive toddler son that the man on television was “the big chump.” If you were going to build a life-long Democrat from the ground up, Tuesday’s caucus meeting is how you do it. Start ’em young, keep ’em working and a dozen or so kids did Tuesday.

The faithful, including what could be the last surviving Dennis Kucinich volunteer, gathered in their precinct caucus groups around tables as they finally broke from the speeches to talk, discuss, argue, agree and disagree – the roots of grassroots politics – planting the seeds of what they hope will grow into part of their party’s platform for the November election.

Gentler politics

Colorado Democrats are a well-behaved lot, at least compared to what Bond/McCoy rancher Pat McConathy is accustomed to from working in politics in his native northern Louisiana.

During one gubernatorial campaign McConathy helped work, his candidate had the misfortune of briefly finding himself in a backwater area and in a meeting with members of the Klan. It’s not a situation in which Colorado candidates are likely to find themselves.

“We’re polite in Colorado. It’s a blood sport in Louisiana,” said McConathy. “In Louisiana, caucus meetings will see people stand up, point their fingers at someone and shout, ‘We have to get rid of THAT guy!’ We don’t see that sort of thing here, and that’s good.”

He does, however, remain unapologetic, as did most of the local Democrats when they refer to President Bush as “shrub.”

Eagle resident Versiellen Driver said she fervently believes that all politics are local.

“I wanted to make a stand,” she said. “I believe in good government and involvement is the only way to get it.”

The crowd was warm and supportive when Eagle County Democratic Chairwoman Deb Marquez asked for their help in getting elected to the Democratic National Committee. If elected, she’d be the only DNC member from Colorado’s Western Slope. Her runoff is May 22 at the Colorado Democratic Assembly.

Beyond Bush

Eagle County candidates are likely to leave the most blood on the floor over the county commissioners races and candidates fired their first subtle salvos during Tuesday’s caucuses.

County Commissioner Arn Menconi enthusiastically complimented party members for showing up in large numbers – around 80 people. He’ll face a Republican and an independent opponent in November’s general election. He asked for the party’s support in his county commission race, as did Michael Gallagher. Gallagher, also an incumbent who has sometimes been at odds with Menconi during the past four years, said the Democrat vision should see a “party of individuals working together for the common good,” and that “we should perfect our own characters before attacking others.”

“If we take care of the people, we will take care of the party. Then we’ll be amazed by what we can accomplish, not by how many people we can get in one room,” said Gallagher.

Gallagher, who has yet to make his candidacy official, faces a primary opponent in fellow Democrat Peter Runyon, who covets his party’s support as much or more than anyone else. Runyon smiled at the crowd as he said it was his first caucus meeting.

He said his goals include expanding the board of county commissioners to five members, getting a handle on growth and trying to bring more middle class jobs to the area.

Gary Lindstrom, a Summit County Commissioner and Democratic candidate for state House of Representatives, made a personal pitch. Representatives for rancher Jay Fetcher, a candidate for Eagle County’s seat in the state Senate, and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, who is running for U.S. Senate, also asked for support at Tuesday’s caucus.

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